Is cloth diapering a waste of time?

It’s Family Friday here at Words on the Word. And nothing says “family” to me like diapers! We have two children in diapers right now, and our third has been fully potty-trained for just about a year or so. We know poop.

Cloth diapering has long been a value for us (here‘s a great place to get them). My wife and I just couldn’t stand the idea of throwing away so many disposable diapers to take up space in a landfill. As one site I read said, we don’t throw away our clothes (or dishes for that matter)… why would we throw away our children’s diapers?

There are other concerns, too, that led us to cloth diapers. Have you ever changed a diaper and all those little absorbent gel capsules had gotten loose and were all over your child’s nether-regions? Not cool, Pampers. And cloth, I’m convinced, just feels much better on a baby’s bum.  Further, cloth holds things in much better. The large majority of “leakages” I’ve encountered have been from so-called super-absorbent disposables.

But it was primarily a desire to do our part as responsible inhabitants of God’s creation that led us to cloth.

However.

What about the amount of water that we have to use to wash all that cloth? We like to line-dry whenever we can, but that’s tough to do in the winter or if it’s raining. What about all the energy used by running the dryer multiple times a week on cloth? Is cloth diapering just as eco-unfriendly as disposables, albeit in a different way?

I’m not sure how you compare different kinds of environmental impact–is it better to fill up landfills or use lots of water?

I’ve wondered about this for about five years worth of child-rearing now. For us, the other added benefits of cloth diapering (less chemicals, more absorbent, more comfortable, save money in the long run) seal the deal for us in our decision to keep using cloth.

But here‘s an article (with links to studies) that makes the assertion that either method is basically just as good. (!) More here, too.

So what’s a parent to do?

8 thoughts on “Is cloth diapering a waste of time?

  1. having used disposable for EIGHT years, I can definitely say cloth is so much more fun. (who knew?) It’s just one more way I can bond with my baby and have fun with all the baby stuff. I don’t feel like a “lemming” just going with what everyone else does. I love the customization of my babies diaper routine. I know about the dioxin and chemicals that cause cancer, and all that, but I think the real reason that deters people is the poop. But every mom has do deal with poop on clothes, especially during potty training and we don’t throw baby clothes away. I had more yucky poop episodes in disposables (remember, eight years!) than I ever had with cloth. anyway, I love that I can spend as much or as little as I want. I spent about $300 total, not all at once, but over 9 months, and you really can get away with spending much, much less, or much, much more if you really want to. From a couple of dollars each up to $30 each. I have bought new, bought seconds, bought hand made, gotten free ones, and won some in contests. I also love the community of cloth diaperers (who knew?) , although some are more hardcore about it than others. I love that I love my diapers. They aren’t just disposable paper. I can get excited about them. They are soft. They are cute. it’s like buying shoes, there are just so many and so varied, I can’t get enough!

  2. I have been considering cloth diapering, but I just haven’t made the leap. Instead I purchase diapers that are chemical-free and supposedly (at least) “environmentally” friendly. I just can’t justify the upfront costs with be certain I will commit to it. 🙂
    On another note, perhaps a better comparison to disposable diapers is the waste and environmental impact of flushing a toilet for adults. It wastes large amounts of water and requires extensive cleaning before it is reused. I mean you don’t just throw away your children’s clothing either (other than diapers) and even adults should occasionally get new underwear.

    1. Hi, Meghan!

      Your comment reminds me of something that stood out to me in a couple of visits to Honduras, which is that it was TOTALLY taboo to flush toilet paper–that always got put in a wastebasket. And I know it’s more “primitive,” but maybe our ancestors were on to something with the outhouse model! Of course, I think an even better solution is some of those flush-efficient toilets I’ve seen. I’ll see if I can find a link….

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